For many days Graham embraced the Tivoli PAL as if it were his life boat and the Very Center of His Being. But one night when his wife Julia exclaimed that his snoring was particularly vociferous and insisted he sleep on the living room couch, he took his Tivoli with him into the living room, placed it on the coffee table and in darkness he tuned for a station that would keep him company that night. In doing so, he discovered one of the Tivoli’s shortcomings.
It was the analog tuning process that made Graham realize that the Tivoli was not the panacea he thought it to be. With no digital read-out, he could not be sure what station he was on. This was particularly problematic when he landed on a station during its commercial break. He found himself impatiently waiting for the radio host to come back on or for some radio identification to be announced to let him know he had landed on Home Base, but these long waits sent him into anxiety and panic and he felt like John Robinson, his favorite childhood character from the television program Lost in Space, becoming untethered from the cord that connected him to the spaceship and floating aimlessly in some obscure galaxy. Where the hell am I? he asked himself, angered that he was wasting several minutes listening to commercials for a radio station that he may not even want to listen to.
What a pathetic fool he was, his hand groping in the darkness for a station. And if the station changed hosts in the middle of the night and he wanted to change to a different station he would have to go through the excruciating process of tuning around the dial all over again. While this analog tuning was acceptable, fun even, during the daylight hours, he found his Tivoli was an unworthy nighttime companion when he needed to pinpoint his station toggling as effortlessly as possible. As much as he loved his Tivoli, it could no longer be his trusty bedtime Guide.
He remembered the night he had bought his Tivoli that he had seen a few silver digital radios at the electronics store—a Grundig G4000, a Grundig YB3000, and Grundig G2000, and he returned to the store the next evening to buy one of them. But when he got there and listened to their tiny speakers, he was disappointed with their lack of bass and their absence of warm fidelity. He then looked at a military field radio with a leather strap, black knobs, and a silver fascia. It was the Grundig S350, big as a giant lunch box that boldly proclaimed strength, power, and security in a world of uncertainty. The S350 was analog, he noticed, but it had a digital read-out so that he could know what station he was on without waiting through all the commercials. Better yet, the speaker sound was big and generous. Even more compelling, the S350 was the same price as the little digital pieces of $100 tin that produced such faint, distant sounds. The hell with those tiny metal scraps of crap, he thought to himself. I’m getting the S350.
To confirm he was making the right purchase, he turned to the salesman Amir, a slender twenty-year-old nursing student from Syria, and said, “This one produces much bigger sound than these smaller radios and it’s the same price.”
“It’s the best radio we have,” Amir said without equivocation, hoping to get rid of this crackpot customer who had been fondling the radios for the last hour or so.
And with Amir’s blessing, Graham bought the Grundig S350 and took it home. He realized its reception, on both AM and FM, was stronger than the Tivoli PAL’s and he felt good about his purchase. After moving the PAL to the workout room and making room on his bedside table for his S350, he said to himself, “There, I now have two very good radios. Finally, I have peace of mind and I can put an end to my radio purchases for good.” But he was wrong. Very, very wrong.